City of Allentown, Allentown, PA
Guiding an unprecedented wave of reinvestment to turn around Pennsylvania's third largest city
A powerful state incentive program, the Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ ) has unleashed a historic wave of investment in downtown Allentown as employers return to new downtown office buildings at cheaper rents than they could find in the suburbs. The scale and pace of investment—$1 billion and 1.5 million square feet of real estate investment in just five years—are unprecedented. Goody Clancy led a team that created a framework to guide redevelopment and public investment decisions to ensure that downtown continues growing into a dynamic, livable urban center for the region.
The framework not only accommodates robust continued commercial development, but taps residential market opportunity to more than double Downtown's population and transform it into a true neighborhood, reconnected to adjacent neighborhoods. The plan included:
- analysis that revealed market potential for 1,000 additional units downtown housing at over five years
- identifying catalyst redevelopment sites, including proposed land use mix and design priorities
- providing building massing guidelines organized by street type
- embracing strategies to reinforce downtown’s historic character and leverage existing infrastructure
- prioritizing proposed improvements to public spaces
As a local reporter has described it, “Allentown’s downtown once was known for its failures — in art by the Billy Joel pop song lamenting an America in decline, and in real life by the 1994 implosion of its only modern office building, which cratered into a gaping sinkhole on Seventh Street. Now, the very same neighborhood stands as an example of the finest urban development and design around the world.”
Since completing the Plan, Downtown has added over $675 million in new investment as a part of 22 projects, including:
- Over 900,000 square feet of office space in Class A towers, Class B buildings, and incubator space
- Six new restaurants and over a dozen retail storefronts
- Over 300 apartment units, with another 200 under development
- A 170-room luxury hotel
- Two additional blocks of the ArtsWalk linear plaza
- A public parking structure wrapped with housing uses
In addition to guiding large-scale development, the Plan has ensured that:
- Development projects proposed since plan adoption respond to the improved design standards now in place. Goody Clancy provides ongoing design review services to help ensure high-quality development projects contribute to the vitality and character of downtown. Over a dozen projects have completed design review.
- In face of limited funding, Goody Clancy and the Allentown NIZ Development Authority developed a process to invest in public realm improvements based on the Downtown Plan. This process helps fund key improvements to public spaces needed to invigorate downtown streets and provide neighborhood amenities. The first project approved as part of this process was the central downtown square envisioned for redesign and reactivation as part of the Plan.